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PC recommendation - small form factor
Old 9th May 2006
  #1
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PC recommendation - small form factor

Hello,

This is my first post... I searched the forums for answers to my question, but none addressed this exactly, so I'm making a new thread... thanks for reading!

I'm a mac person, and my knowledge of the windows pc world is poor. I would like to work with fruity loops (FL6 Studio), so I need recommendations for a pc, though I have some special requirements. Yes, I'm aware of Boot Camp, but it's not applicable in my case.

1)I have very little space in my one bedroom, and my girlfriend is not friendly toward my gear... it's a fight for every inch. So, I need a small form factor pc. The size of a mac mini would be perfect. Unfortunately, mac minis are too expensive for me at the moment.

2)Yes, sadly, I'm not wealthy. I'd love to get the intel mac mini, but can't afford one. I would like not to pay more than $400 if possible.

3)It would be neat if the pc had at least a cd burner (slow is fine), firewire and usb. And audio out (stereo), even if it's a minijack headphone deal. I dare not dream of audio in (I figure I can manage with plugging in some kind of usb device and getting around a non-existant audio in). Hopefully the sound card is not an utter disgrace, I don't care about the video card. Huge hard drive not necessary, as I have an external HDD.

4) I don't need a monitor, keyboard, or mouse (have all those)

This pc would be used exclusively for music, so it's capabilities need only address basic audio needs.

Now, with Apple, there are very few choices, so I know right off the bat what my options are. However, the huge windows pc world is too large for me to figure out. I need your advice. I'm located in Los Angeles, CA, and I'm happy to buy online from reputable dealers. Thank you in advance!
Old 9th May 2006
  #2
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AlexLakis's Avatar
 

You're gonna have trouble finding anything close to the size of a Mac Mini in PC land...definately not for that price, at least...and certainly not as quiet. There are plenty of other important things to consider other than size when building a PC DAW...adding that as a variable, and your options are very limited.

Found this after a quick google search: http://www.tomshardware.com/2002/10/...t_of_them_all/

Not sure how that'd handle audio apps...Fruityloops isn't that picky, tho.
Old 9th May 2006
  #3
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k...

Thank you, and I hear what you're saying... that link seems 4 years old, which I take to be an eternity in the pc world but maybe as far as small form factor, things haven't changed much...

It's disappointing that I'm not likely to get anything approx. the size of the mac mini... like I said, I wish I could use a bigger form factor, but as it is, my hope is to hide the darn thing from my girlfriend (maybe pretend it's some kind of ups or something)... she's very opposed to more gear in our little appartment...

And the price... hmm... I was kinda hoping for the famous expensive macs/cheap pc thing to take hold... and I thought: "why not a cheap pc, say under $400"... guess I wasn't right with that one either.... bummer...

so is there no hope?
Old 9th May 2006
  #4
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XSergeantD's Avatar
 

Not too hard to find
$256
http://www.hwextreme.com/reviews/bar...deq_200t_200n/

AMD (333FSB) or Athlon(800FSB) up to 2BG ram.
2 USB
1 SDIF out
HP on front
IEEE on front
line out on rear

smallest PC i know of is 2"x2"x1.7" but runs only on Linux.
Old 9th May 2006
  #5
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Thanks, XSergeantD, this is interesting. Couple of things... I suppose the link is from 2003, though I'm sure one can find equivalent stuff...

A few other issues though... I've seen systems for as little as $200 or less, but just as in the example you linked to, it comes with no OS (which even with an OEM XP will add about $100), with no HDD, with no CD-RW, etc... by the time you add all these things, your price climbs substantially...

More importantly, the dimensions are still pretty appalling... I was thinking of something in the neighborhood of a mac mini (a bit bigger is OK), but most have one of the dimensions (usually depth) at 12"-13" which is ginormous... it's HUGE!

I looked at more complete systems than barebones, and not only are the systems still gigantic, but the prices quoted are laughable... I mean, I may as well buy a mac mini, and since I can't afford a mac mini, I'm certainly not dropping equal (or bigger) cash on a pc! This is depressing as all hell. I thought pcs are supposed to be cheaper and that's their one advantage over a mac... doesn't seem so, from where I'm sitting, at least so far...

Like I said, I looked over the forums and didn't see anything like it discussed, it appears a pretty difficult set of conditions to fulfill... my hope was that in the big, big, big world of windows pcs, there'd be a wealth of choices. Seems not so simple.
Old 9th May 2006
  #6
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LewisWu's Avatar
 

this might be what you are looking for... they're just a little bit bigger than some external hdd cases.

http://minipc.aopen.com/us/

and

http://minipc.aopen.com/Global/spec.htm
Old 9th May 2006
  #7
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copperx's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LewisWu
this might be what you are looking for... they're just a little bit bigger than some external hdd cases.

http://minipc.aopen.com/us/

and

http://minipc.aopen.com/Global/spec.htm

VERY interesting, but unfortunately the Core Duo version of it is about $899. The Celeron M is about $699.

The Mac Mini doesn't look pricey after all!!!

If I were you, I would go with the other $200-$299 box that doesn't have
optical/HD drives. I would add the drives as money comes in heh (or recycle some your old drives -- that's the biggest advantage of PCs ... instead of buying a whole new computer, you just buy a barebones and put your old HD/optical drives/cards ... TADA! new computer).

If you want an entire system, I would say get the Mac Mini. It is a great value (keep in mind it already includes the operating system, unlike the PC barebones) oops I forgot you said you were using Fruityloops -- PC only

Last edited by copperx; 9th May 2006 at 07:07 AM.. Reason: oops --- fruityloops
Old 9th May 2006
  #8
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Amazing, how hard this actually is! Here's a thought... you can get a laptop like an Acer for around $500 (and with coupons I've seen on FatWallet, they get it down to like $489!). That gives you a whole computer that's actually smaller than some of the so-called small form factor pc I've seen! The specs are:

Intel Celeron M processor 370 (1.5ghz)
512MB DDR2 400 SDRAM
80GB Hard drive
CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive
14.1" TFT Active Matrix Display 1280 x 800
802.11b/g WLAN, 10/100 LAN, V.92 modem
Windows XP professional
1 year warranty

Now, that's not bad! Sure, it's a bit more than my $400 target, but you get a whole laptop with decent specs! So, I thought, surely, if I give up the idea of a laptop, don't need a screen, keyboard etc., I should get an absolutely great deal! Well, clearly not so! Either the prices on the small form factor give huge margins to the sellers, or there's something else afoot.

Bottom line, if a laptop with these specs can be had for $489, why can't one get a better price on a small box with no lcd screen, keyboard or touchpad, no battery and no laptop premium? Unbelievable...
Old 9th May 2006
  #9
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steven...
amd semprons in my area start at 290 bucks.

one drive. but they are tower . not small form factor.
for under 400 buks you can have a system that does lots of tracks.
i have an athlon that does 40 tracks plus 26 plug ins before starting to sweat.
if i need more (which i never do) i mix to stereo and reimport to a new blank session and add 39 more tracks.
how about a used athlon ?? ive seen them for 150 buks.
put in a nice hard drive with a fat cache for 80 buks.
now were up to 230 buks.
put in a maudio 2496 sound card for 90 buks for good recording quality
and we are up to 320 buks. add your mixer of choice.
Old 9th May 2006
  #10
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AlexLakis's Avatar
 

Wouldn't it be cheaper just to upgrade your girlfriend?
Old 9th May 2006
  #11
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XSergeantD's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexLakis
Wouldn't it be cheaper just to upgrade your girlfriend?
LMFAO. I assume thats not an option. Sounds like you'll be needing to get a mac mini and run bootcamp. You're really looking for a company that makes a mac mini in a PC version - an unexpandable PC. I don't know any motherboard manufacturers that make a MB without card slots - which is what takes up all this space you are having problems with. Probably you'll be looking for a laptop in the $400 range, or you'll go buy a motherboard and powersupply (No installed cards) and not stick it in a case - I have one system like this sitting under my stereo system.
As for laptop, a quick search of Dell gave up the Inspiron B120 at 500. Probably no FW, but a $20 card gets you where you want to be, system can sit between a desk and the garbage can and ITS PORTABLE. A bit more than your $400, but it is from a name brand manufacturer and still less than a mac mini w/ bootcamp at $700. Search other sites for laptop deals as there are plenty of deals available, this was $650 with $150 instant rebate (not a mail in rebate [email protected]).
goodluck
Old 10th May 2006
  #12
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Smile

Thanks a lot, folks, you've all been helpful... girlfriend stays, she's not upgradable unless you're talkin' angelina jolie... at which point she can afford to buy gear for *me* ...

Looks like the consensus is a lappy... hmm... strange how things turn out...

OK, now this is prolly harder to answer, but what kind of specs does FL6 need, would you folks recon? I mean, I usually ignore the "official" reqs., as they are always set to an unusable minimum to pull in more buyers... so, what are the REAL specs FL6 needs, in your experience?

And thank you again, you've been extremely helpful.. this seems like the best music prod. site out there!
Old 10th May 2006
  #13
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steven....
if you search my back posts to save me a few pages retyping ive posted lots of tips re buying laptops.
before buying the lappy install the fruit on it and run tests.
where people GO WRONG is they buy the lappy first then find out they have probs.
two problems to be aware of. some internal drives in laps can be S L O W .
so you might need to buy an external FAST hard drive.
as xp NEEDS MEMORY. minimum i would start with 1 gig ram.
Old 10th May 2006
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manning1
steven....
if you search my back posts to save me a few pages retyping ive posted lots of tips re buying laptops.
before buying the lappy install the fruit on it and run tests.
where people GO WRONG is they buy the lappy first then find out they have probs.
two problems to be aware of. some internal drives in laps can be S L O W .
so you might need to buy an external FAST hard drive.
as xp NEEDS MEMORY. minimum i would start with 1 gig ram.
Golden words, manning1! I intend to use my external HDD (firewire & USB), it's a Seagate 300GB 7200RPM, 8mb cache. That said, I hear you loud and clear - I'll look to make sure the internal HDD is at least 5400 RPM (I suspect the budget lappys have slower drives, and I'm unlikely to get a 7200RPM one, though I'll try). And yes, absolutely, I'll max out the RAM. I'm not sure how realistic it'll be for me to try out FL6 on the lappy I'm buying, as I'll be buying most likely online, so, I'll just have to eyeball the specs really carefully...
Old 10th May 2006
  #15
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copperx's Avatar
 

It's quite suprising that the $500 laptop you talk about seems better than the upcoming "MacBook" from Apple, which will probably start around $999 ... of course, it can't run OS X ... but still ... WOW!
Old 10th May 2006
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by copperx
It's quite suprising that the $500 laptop you talk about seems better than the upcoming "MacBook" from Apple, which will probably start around $999 ... of course, it can't run OS X ... but still ... WOW!
Well, not quite... I don't know what processors the macbook will have, or much else about it, after all they're not here as yet, but two things stand out immediately: the $500 laptop is over 6lb (you can be sure the macbook will be much less), and the battery life is somewhere around 2 hours (the macbook will likely be at approx. 6 hours)... not to mention the macbook will be much smaller in size and better looking Will whatever is better about the macbook be worth $600 premium? In the eye of the beholder, I guess... personally, I'm writing this on a 12" G4 1.33 iBook that I got brand new 4 months ago for $785 (from Amazon), and I'm pleased as punch with it... I got it even though I thought the Macbook was just around the corner... didn't want a rev. A product... I'll wait until they work out the bugs before I buy the Macbook (which may be a year or even more!).
Old 12th May 2006
  #17
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XSergeantD's Avatar
 

Evensteven, you mentioned bootcamp was not applicable, why not? I was just about to ask if you have looked at saving $ on the mac mini via getting it refurb from the Apple store. Now you're down to $519, and you get the hardware and footprint you're looking for. Just another thought for you to think bout.

Quote:
Originally Posted by copperx
of course, it can't run OS X ...
Actually it can if you are 31337, but thats a whole other story and a whole other webpage.
Old 12th May 2006
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XSergeantD
Evensteven, you mentioned bootcamp was not applicable, why not? I was just about to ask if you have looked at saving $ on the mac mini via getting it refurb from the Apple store. Now you're down to $519, and you get the hardware and footprint you're looking for. Just another thought for you to think bout.
Well, my reason was purely $$$. The very top of my budget is $400... so a mini, even a refurb won't do, especially that I'd have to add about $100 for a copy of XP anyway...

Incidentally, I've seen a brand new Dell lappy for $375 AR, but have to check out the specs... wow, that's insanely cheap!
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